A benefit concert for the Elting Memorial Library’s children’s programming will headline Grammy Award-winners Jay Ungar and Molly Mason as well as Mike & Ruthy, Elizabeth Mitchell and You Are My Flower at the Studley Theatre on the SUNY New Paltz campus on Sunday, May 26.
According to Raymundo Rodriguez-Jackson, a longtime employee of the Library at the Circulation Desk, funding has been cut so dramatically that the popular children’s summer reading program, as well as programming year-round, is being threatened. “We used to receive state member items that are no longer coming from Albany, due to the fiscal crisis our state is in,” he said. “We also had been receiving a private grant through a foundation that has gone dry, which has put our children’s programming in dire jeopardy.”
Nicole Jurain, a local mother who religiously attends the children’s library and programming with her two young boys, learned of the funding cuts and suggested that he try to contact Ungar and Mason, with whom she has a connection. “Her husband is a firefighter and she homeschools her children and wanted to do something to help,” said Rodriguez-Jackson.
Renowned folk musicians Ungar and Mason, who composed the soundtrack for the PBS Civil War series, were gracious enough to offer their musical talent to help raise funds for the children’s programming, which includes a summer reading program in which public libraries throughout New York State participate, as well as visiting authors, artists, bookmakers, performers and animal encounters that Bonnie Pfeffer, the Children’s Collection coordinator, brings to the Children’s Reading Room throughout the year.
The estimated cost of this programming is approximately $5,000, and soon, Rodriguez-Jackson and Jurain were able to entice more great musicians to round out a concert for all ages and musical tastes. “We have Mike & Ruthy, an alternative indie rock group who have played backup for the Wallflowers, join the fundraising concert,” he said. “And then we have Elizabeth Mitchell and You Are My Flower, an incredible musician with a focus on children’s music.”
Not only are local and regional musicians pitching in to help save the children’s summer reading program, but dozens of local businesses, restaurants and artists have also donated a wide variety of items, gift certificates, baskets and services that will be part of a silent auction that night.
“The summer reading program is for children ages pre-K through middle school and is incredibly popular here,” said Rodriguez-Jackson. “There are contests, book-reading ledgers, stars and prizes for the time they spend reading and exploring the text. The kids love it.”
Each year there is a different statewide summer reading program theme, and this year it’s “Dig into Reading!” The program runs from the end of June through August, but the Library needs support to keep it up and running as strong as it has been. To that end, people can purchase tickets for a “fantastic evening of music and talent” for $20 per person. There is also VIP seating for $50 a person: that first block of eight seats in the first few rows at Studley, the auditorium of the Old Main Building. Tickets can be purchased or reserved at the Library or by calling (845) 255-5030. Tickets will also be sold at the door at $25 a person.
All proceeds will go to the Elting Memorial Library Children’s Room programming. The doors open at 5:30 p.m., when there will be refreshments as well as the Silent Auction. The show begins at 7 p.m. To learn more, go to www.eltinglibrary.org.